Tools for Business







When I started a business in 1988,one of the first things I did was go see a lawyer. I showed up at the lawyer's office and realized I didn't have the slightest idea of what to ask or why I was there. I wasted $500. That pretty much sums up most of the experience. I thought the chambers of commerce should have a toolkit to help people get through all the government red tape. They didn't have one, so I abandoned my original business idea and created the kits instead.

The kits had all the government forms with simple instructions - who, what, where, when, why, how and how much. I customized them for the local of chambers of commerce so they could serve their communities.

With the Internet, the world changed and information exploded, so now we have access to more information than we can imagine. But most of the really "helpful" stuff doesn't show up on the first few pages of Google. The first pages have ads from businesses that have devoted their lives to search engine optimization so they can get your money.

I love when people have the tools they need to succeed - and I believe that every community, regardless of its size, should give their residents tools to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. When I find hidden "gems" with practical tools, I am delighted.

Whether you are in business, or starting a business, I hope you consider some of these resources "gems" as well. And if you can't find what you're looking for, either visit your local librarian or visit me on the online chat. I'm happy to help.


My life took a big hiccup when my house and home office were burned in the 1991 Oakland East Bay Firestorm. At that time, having 3000 people's homes destroyed was unheard of. Today, it happens regularly. The fire taught me the power of community to help in recovery. Since then, I have recognized that in disasters, businesses are largely forgotten. They are praised when they donate goods, but when they quietly go out of business, no one notices. Their only support is an SBA disaster loan (sometimes)... when what they need is to get their customers back. If they don't get their customers back, the loan goes bad and they face a second disaster.

I started creating a toolkit so that people (and businesses) could help each other recover. Initially called, I learned that when the disaster is over, people no longer want to think about disasters...or prepare for one. So I wrapped resiliency tools into an app that people want to use in good times. It just happens that the app has tools to help them in bad times. It's called Yes2Connect. A chamber-version is available called ChamberComplete. My goal is to provide this toolkit to chambers of commerce and communities across the country, so that everyone is ready to recover from a disaster beginning Day 1.

Carolyn Usinger is the creator of Yes2Connect,, and She started her career creating Business Start-Up Kits for the California Chamber of Commerce and wrote the Guide to Hiring Independent Contractors, published by the California Chamber of Commerce in the early 1990s.

Ms. Usinger specializes in creating small business tools branded and customized for local chambers of commerce and communities. Tools for Business was initially developed for the California Local Economic Development (CALED) with a grant from Wells Fargo. It was subsequently launched nationwide with Kay Reynolds, an experienced economic development professional. Tools for Business can be provided independently to a community, or as part of an app, with added connection, resiliency, and support features.

Ms. Usinger holds an MBA from UC Berkeley. You can contact her at or 866.429.1527.